TAM Success!

We’re all home from The Amazing Meeting 9 (aka TAM 9 from Outer Space) in Las Vegas, and I think we can mark this one down as a success:

  • 15 women made the trip to TAM on scholarship thanks to Surly Amy’s fundraising efforts (and your generous donations). The rumor was that about 40% of attendees were women this year, up from around 25% at my first TAM six years ago. Additionally, when Amy posted pictures of the first batch of scholarship winners, a commenter (BlackCat) pointed out that they were all white. We realized we hadn’t considered race at all in the scholarship process and so hadn’t made an effort to reach out to minority groups. Following that revelation, we found three women of color to send along as well.
  • 299 people were vaccinated for pertussis (whooping cough, the deadly-but-preventable disease that is flaring up around the world), thanks to Maria and Elyse’s efforts coordinating with the CDC and the WTFF. Bill Atkinson, our CDC contact, reported that we vaccinated attendees from 40 states and 11 non-US countries. That tops the 200 we vaccinated at Dragon*Con last year, so at this year’s D*C we plan to beat that goal.
  • Richard Dawkins didn’t come on the SGU to chat, or talk to me at all, or mention the big to-do at all, but he did say he’d give money to set up childcare at future conferences.* This is great news! We’ve been pestering organizations to do this for years, specifically trying to get Camp Quest to work with the JREF to offer a mini-TAM for kids. I even mentioned it at Skepticon back in 2009 to an enthusiastic response. But, we’ve always lacked the money and the manpower to force the issue. So, win!
  • Despite the moronic threats, we all seem to have made it through unmolested. Hooray! From the many women I spoke to at the event, they all seemed to have a great time.
  • We skipped the Skepchick party this year, since last year it got out of control and became more stressful than we wanted. People who had never even heard of Skepchick were showing up and behaving like idiots, so we decided to take a holiday this year. However, I met a woman this year who reminded me of the Pajama Parties we used to have waaaaay back in the day – it was basically just a laid-back party for the few women at TAM to hang out and get to know each other. She told me that she had made a lifelong friend there, and that it was a really positive experience for her. I’m going to keep that in mind for next year . . . now that we’re nearly 50/50 it may not be necessary to have that kind of safe space, but I would like to get back to throwing parties that were more about meeting your fellow commenters and building an awesomer community. Shut up, awesomer is a word.
  • I met a fantastic girl named Liala who was wearing a “Don’t Hit on Me” shirt with a picture of a piñata. I was delighted to find out that I had actually met her many years ago on the JREF’s cruise to Alaska, where we got to talk quite a bit about how boring lectures can be when you’re, like, 8. How cool is it that she’s still joining her dad at skeptics’ events? Answer: very cool.
  • OK I could actually include 100 other items about the fantastic people I met and re-met at TAM this year but just let it be known that it was a great crowd.

Altogether, this was an incredibly enjoyable conference. I hosted a quiz show Thursday night and was on stage Friday and Saturday for the live Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe shows, but I think the highlight for me was the Diversity Panel on Sunday. Desiree Schell moderated a panel of Hemant Mehta, Jamila Bey, Greta Christina, our own Debbie Goddard, and DJ Grothe. I’m sure people took different things from it depending upon their own perspective, but I have to say that the women killed it. Greta, in particular, was fierce. I’ve heard the JREF is going to make some talks and panels available online, so rather than me relating her points with my own faulty memory, I’ll post it as soon as that one goes online. (Ed: She mentions it in her post today.)

Anyway, thanks to all of you who introduced yourselves (and re-introduced yourselves) at TAM! You made it a really enjoyable experience for me and the other Skepchicks. I hope to see even more of you in about a month at DragonCon!

*I heard this second hand (he mentioned it during his talk, which I didn’t see) and I haven’t seen an announcement from the JREF or RDF yet, but I’m assuming there’s something in the works.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

Related Articles


  1. It was a very successful TAM, probably the best one yet. We met lots of new and old friends, too. The talks and panels were fantastic, and so were the evening parties.

    I anticipate catching up on lost sleep sometime next February.

  2. I so want to attend a TAM event :( next year I will be making an effort, but it depends on a lot of factors, money being only a part of it. Glad to hear it went so well!

  3. When Richard Dawkins announced that there would be child care, he repeated several times that it was so that “mothers” could come to TAM. As a father, having my childcare needs sidelined like this has always been a hot button of mine. Given all the conversation devoted to diversity and awareness, his old-school mindset is almost humorous.

    1. When he made the announcement, I and a bunch of people sitting near me (who I hadn’t previously met, as far as I can remember) all looked at each with quizzical expressions. We couldn’t figure out if it was a counter-punch or an incredibly lame attempt at an apology, or just something that had been in the works for a while. (He tried to make it sound like the latter.) We also noticed the very traditional-family phrasing. I ran into one of the Skepchicks out in the hallway a minute or so later, and she seemed to lean to the first interpretation, and didn’t seem to think the idea would benefit all that many people. On reflection, I think it was sincere if a little inept, and would help at least some subset of attendees.

      1. When he finished his speech with that announcement, I was pleased that rather than just talk, at least he was proposing actually doing something that will assist women.

        Yes, yes, I know that some people will protest that child care should not be seen as just a women’s issue, but the realities of our society are that many women are bearing much of the work of child care. I know that when my children were small, my being away from them for a long weekend like TAM was just not feasible. And, of course, there is the situation of nursing mothers, and that’s not something that can be shifted to the guys. So let’s have a nursery, and a mini Camp Quest for the older kids, and allow whole families to attend conferences together.

  4. “Despite the moronic threats, we all seem to have made it through unmolested. Hooray!”

    What!?, does this mean they merely were good’ol standard internet trolls? That’s a shocker.

  5. I wish there was something like that here in Mexico :( I’m so envious of all of you right now.

  6. My daughter and I came to our first TAM this year and had a great time! Thanks for all the effort you put into it. Almost all of the talks were amazing (Dawkins not being one of them) and looking forward to next year. Damn, what a great time. I feel for those who can’t be there.

  7. I met Liala and her parents on the JREF cruise to Alaska, and have bumped into them at a couple of TAMs since then. (I only briefly saw her dad this last time, and never bumped into her mom or Liala herself at all, unfortunately.) They are a great bunch.

    Looking at that picture, I can only assume about 15 years have passed since we went to Alaska. Jesus Christ, that girl has grown.

  8. Well for my first TAM, I will report exactly zero propositions. Of course, being middle aged, married, and rather dumpy, I almost never get any propositions anyway. I did get a guy or two being a little too friendly in a slightly disconcerting sort of way, but I was able to discourage it before anybody crossed the line over to creepy.

    Rebecca, thanks for inviting me to reminisce about Phil Plait at your gameshow! People recognized me for the rest of the weekend – I felt almost like a celebrity.

    I had a blast at TAM. It was like stepping into the internet. I could sit down next to any random person there, and they would be interesting to talk to. And the odds were pretty good that they were either someone I had heard of, or someone I should have heard of. I certainly hope I will be able to attend in future years.

  9. I just wanted to say that this is absolutely fabulous. And, as an atheist woman who is too poor to attend many conferences, I was delighted to discover your scholarship program thanks to this whole Elevator mess. If I am still a broke-ass broke by next year’s TAM, I will definitely apply for one of those scholarships!

  10. I have a photograph of you two from that Alaska cruise.

    Also, remembering the early G6 Skepchick parties. I did the tshirts for the first one by getting discount t’s at Wal Mart and ironing on each “Skepchick Party”. A few guys got to be bodyguards and got tshirts also. Then Daniel Hanson designed a really lovely skepchick tshirt (the skepchick was dressed like a film noir detective). Maybe you need tshirts again? that would be cool

  11. I am very, very glad you that you all were safe. It warms this old biddy’s heart, after all this kerfuffle. You continue to be an inspiration and awesome.

    My husband showed me a disgusting YouTube rant by a sh*tacular thing called “Thatfatathiest” or some such nonsense. My husband was incensed and left two messages stating his ‘disapproval’ (beeeeeg euphamism there). I didn’t bother watching more than, oh, twenty seconds, as I already wanted to hurl my computer screen through the wall and then go find some brain bleach.

    I couldn’t even be bothered to leave the f*cking twatnugget a comment. Why bother? Just brings me down to his level, and he has far more practice at displaying his idiocy than I have.

    But I have found my brain bleach by reading your post. Yay you! And how great is it that families are still coming to TAM events! If we could afford the airfares from Down Under we’d be there too.

    If ever you guys come back over (TAM OZ Teh Second?) I will be there. Hey, my whole family will be there!

    1. There’s a total solar eclipse in northern Australia on Nov 14, 2012. Sky & Telescope is organizing a tour.
      Someone (Kittynh?) was handing out Tim Tams at TAM, and several of us agreed the next TAM should have an antipodean theme (“TAM TEN TIM TAMS”, say that 3 times fast.)
      Sounds like everything’s coming together nicely!

  12. how soon do they start planning the next one? I am really dying to go, if I can secure the apparently-necessary male escort (snortle)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button